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U.S. Compound in Mosul Shelled

U.S. Compound in Mosul Shelled

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Insurgents using rocket-propelled grenades struck a U.S. compound Wednesday in the northern city of Mosul, a day after Baghdad's heavily guarded central district came under fire.

No casualties were reported in Wednesday's incident, the U.S. military said. Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, had been relatively quiet in the past several months, but the security situation has deteriorated since October.

The continuing attacks by shadowy groups of Iraqi resistance fighters have cast doubt on the ability of the U.S.-led coalition to contain the growing insurgency, and have sparked an exodus from Baghdad of international organizations and diplomats from several Western countries.

Spain, a close U.S. ally, withdrew many of its diplomatic staff on Wednesday because of escalating violence.

Huge explosions thundered through Baghdad Tuesday evening as the insurgents targeted the 2-square-mile "Green Zone," which includes coalition headquarters, the military press center and other key facilities.

Iraqi police said two mortars fell in the zone, but U.S. officials said the headquarters itself, located in one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces, was not damaged. A Pentagon spokesman said three people were wounded. It was unclear if they were military or civilians.

The huge detonations sent coalition staffers running into the hallways. It was the second mortar attack against the Green Zone in as many days.

The Spanish withdrawal followed the slaying of a Spanish navy captain in the truck bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad on Aug. 19, and the Oct. 9 killing of a Spanish sergeant working for military intelligence. Security at the Spanish Embassy had been stepped up in recent weeks.

Two other coalition members have withdrawn diplomats from Iraq because of stepped-up insurgent attacks. Last month, Bulgaria and the Netherlands moved their diplomats to Jordan, also citing worsening security.

Britain's Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon also said Wednesday that the security situation in Iraq remains a concern, but he insisted most parts of the country and the capital Baghdad were "very calm."

The Defense Ministry announced Tuesday that a British marine was killed by hostile fire in Iraq last week, bringing the British death toll since the war started to 52.

"In most parts of Iraq and in most parts of Baghdad the security situation is very calm," Hoon told British Broadcasting Corp. radio. But he said the "security situation ... in and around Baghdad continues to be a cause for concern."

"We have to continue to bear down on those who are continuing to attack coalition forces," he added.

Fears about security have increased after a dramatic escalation in attacks, starting with the Oct. 26 missile barrage against the Al-Rasheed Hotel, where many coalition and U.S. military officials lived. One U.S. colonel was killed and 18 people were wounded.

On Sunday, guerrillas near Fallujah shot down a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter, killing 15 soldiers in the bloodiest single strike against American forces since the war began March 20.

Violence persisted Tuesday when a roadside bomb killed a 1st Armored Division soldier and wounded two others in Baghdad.

Separately, officials said Iraq's Oil Ministry has replaced the director of the government's petroleum marketing agency in a bid to accelerate oil exports, considered the key to economic revival.

Shamkhi Faraj was named to head the State Oil Marketing Organization, or SOMO, replacing Mohammed Jibouri who had been running the agency since the end of active combat in May.

The move was made this week and confirmed by senior ministry officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Faraj, who had been in charge of the ministry's economic department, formerly worked at OPEC and is considered knowledgeable in petroleum marketing, one official said.

He said other personnel changes were expected.

The oil marketing organization said last month that Iraq had tripled its oil exports in September over June levels but sabotage of pipelines and smuggling had cut into foreign sales.

Before the war began in March, Iraq pumped around 2.1 million barrels a day.

L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. civilian administrator for Iraq, has said the country loses $7 million a day when the northern pipeline is not in service.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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